A very public trash problem, that's been going on for two years, is finally seeing a clean-up plan. Two piles of used shingles popped up in Knoxville shortly after a brutal hail storm on April 27, 2011.
A company called "Greenphalt Recycling" operated unauthorized dump-sites on Lexington Drive in West Knoxville, and on Boruff Street in East Knoxville, until the city put them out of business during the summer of 2012. But it's the landowners, not the shingle recycling company, that are footing the bills to remove tens of thousands of tons of shingles stored illegally on their properties for the past 18 months.
10News first reported concerns over Greenphalt's business in December 2011. From that point, the City of Knoxville, and Greenphalt's owners, were in a battle over shutting down the operation.
A group of men from Kentucky set up the West Knoxville location first, in May 2011. They opened the East Knoxville location a few months later. The city estimates the West Knoxville site took in 10,000 to 50,000 tons of used roofing material until they closed in July 2012. The owners told 10News they planned to bring in machines to grind up the shingles, turn them in to asphalt, and ship that out of state.
That never happened. The city determined neither site was properly zoned for dumping and took Greenphalt to court. Its owners eventually skipped town, and the city has since held the landowners responsible for cleaning up the messes.
The West Knoxville site hasn't changed much since Greenphalt closed. The property is still full of shingles and other debris. Walls made out of wood, which are starting to fall down, hold the debris inside of a chain link fence.
Property owner Sam Furrow said Wednesday in a phone interview that he has contracted with a new out-of-state company to come in soon and recycle the shingles into asphalt. The alternative was hauling them to a local landfill, which Furrow wanted to avoid if possible.
A city spokesperson said the Law Director's office is confident Furrow has made a "good faith" effort to develop and implement a clean-up plan. Furrow said he's ready to get his land back; so far he said he's lost $142,500 in rent. He said he expects to break-even on the clean-up by recycling the shingles.
More than half of the shingles at the East Knoxville site are already gone. Property owner Charles Robinson said Wednesday in a phone interview that he started working with an out-of-state company in September 2012 to recycle the material. He said he submitted a removal plan to the city, but hasn't heard back. A city spokesperson told 10News that Robinson stopped responding to the Law Director's office at some point; they are considering legal options.
The city is giving both land owners until December 31, 2013 to complete clean-up at their respective properties.
As for the Greenphalt owners, no one has heard from them in months. There is still an open complaint against them from the City of Knoxville, and they could face fines if the city tracks them down.